Parliament expected to break a week early for Easter amid Covid-19 crisis

Parliament is likely to adjourn for an early Easter recess after the emergency coronavirus legislation to tackle the crisis has been approved.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has tabled a motion for the House of Commons to rise on Wednesday until April 21.

The move would see MPs break from their duties in Westminster almost a week early, with the initial recess date for Easter having been set for Tuesday March 31.

MPs have been following party guidance on attending debates in a bid to limit those in the Chamber at any one time.

Special measures were brought in this week to stagger voting so politicians could adhere to Government advice to remain two metres away from each other in the division lobbies.

The Coronavirus Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent and become law before the end of the day after MPs from all sides agreed to let it pass without formal votes.

It will see the powers of ministers, councils, police, health professionals and coroners temporarily strengthened during the UK’s current lockdown which is designed to stall the spread of the deadly illness.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said he was “certain” MPs would return after the Easter recess to review whether Parliament should reopen during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Cabinet minister told BBC Breakfast: “Once that’s happened (the passing of the Coronavirus Bill) then it may be a sensible thing to close Parliament down for the recess and then review that at the end of the recess after Easter.

“Most of us, I think, do want Parliament to continue. We live in a democracy, it’s essential there’s scrutiny of the steps that the Government is taking.

Coronavirus Commons
Coronavirus Commons

“But obviously Parliament has to lead by example, follow the guidelines wherever it can, and ensure that we protect the staff that work in Parliament as well.”

Mr Jenrick said he was unaware of whether Mr Rees-Mogg would call for a fixed return date.

But he said it was his opinion that Parliament should return in “some form” after recess.

Mr Jenrick told the BBC: “I think it’s really important, however deep and serious this crisis, that Parliament in some form continues to operate because you as citizens want to ensure your MPs are holding the Government to account.”

Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, in a statement on Monday, said work would take place while MPs were away to improve video conferencing for committee hearings but stressed that technical teams were under strain due to staff shortages related to the coronavirus outbreak.

It is not known whether the Speaker would consider allowing MPs to hold Commons debates via video conference.